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in June 1990 Bush’s chief of staffJohn Sununu advised him over dinner that “Eighty to 90 per cent of American people think depressed tobacco consumption is a good idea” and therefore the “best arguments are strictly political and have nothing to do with policy.” At the same time, tobacco lobbyists have curried favor with legislators on a state level in efforts to thwart anti-smoking legislation. The usual strategy is to form coalitions with local groups that act as frontscandy and convenience stores, for example, or billboard interests or restaurant associations. According to internal Philip Morris documents that were turned over to the Texasbased health advocacy group Doctors Ought to Care, in 1989, the tobacco company spent $158,500 on regional lobbyists to influence members of Congress and another $579,000 in seven Southwestern states, including Texas, to kill major smoking-control bills. These bills would have required restrictions on smoking in public places and work sites, increased cigarette taxes, and limited sales of tobacco to children. The money went for honoraria, trips, pet charities of legislators, and various state political causes. [See Texas excerpts, pg. 12.] In Arizona, the Philip Morris papers advised, “Concentrate on leadership and committee chairs in the senate,” and in Kansas, “Shift attention to the senate Public Health and Welfare Committee to stop bad bills ….We gave about $11,000 in Kansas to legislators. It may not seem like much, but that’s the most we could give without sticking out like a sore thumb.” In certain cases, money was used to shut up politicians: “The plan is to give early and large campaign contributions to… thereby jumping on the bandwagon early and at the very least buying…silence.” Trips to New York City were a favorite way of greasing local legislators and there was a “buck hunt” trip to the Ozarks for restaurateur allies. It’s widely known that the tobacco industry also employs a skein of “grass tops,” friends of important legislators who are then supposed to influence their buds. In one internal Philip Morris document, headed “Political Power Assessment,” politicians are ranked as “least friendly legislators” and “friendliest legislators.” Under a category, “Movers & Shakers,” each name is accompanied by a comment such as “Up and corner,” and “We all know Dave.” An entry for Texas notes, “No one would come to our aid except the Black Caucus members to speak out against the tax and even then we had to use personal favors for them to hold the press conference. We have really catered to the local chambers buying time for sampling ban legislation. Particularly in Houston and Dallas, by sponsoring things like the Dallas Black Dance and other pet projects.” In Louisiana, the company documents note, “We give these members so much money in campaign contributions, and I think that knocks out the need for an honorarium unless they requested it coupled as a trip.” And later, “We gave money last year to every caucus that ever existed and will continue to do so.” The industry has also sought to curry favor on a much wider scale, backing groups ranging from the American Civil Liberties Union to the Heritage Foundation, the conservative think tank. According to a recent report by the Advocacy Institute, the ACLU, which has been advocating the tobacco industry’s cause in Congress, netted $500,000 in funds from Philip Morris between 1987 and 1992, along with additional sums from RJR Nabisco and the Tobacco Institute. In 1990, Morton H. Halperin, then the ACLU’s Washington director and currently a controversial Clinton appointee to be an assistant secretary of defense, testified before the Senate that “there is simply no evidence that tobacco advertising increases the level of smoking, and no evidence that eliminating tobacco advertising will reduce the amount of smoking.” In response to criticism over the tobacco money, an ACLU spokesperson declared, “If we were to try to screen the involvement or the benefits of all our contributors, we’d be in big trouble. Where do you draw the line? It’s political correctness run rampant. We are delighted when anyone supports the work we do.” The industry also has supported health groups engaged in fighting alcohol abuse and AIDS, including Philip Morris grants to the tion, the company gave grants of a few thousand dollars to women’s groups, including the National Organization for Women Legal Defense & Education Fund and the League of Women Voters. According to Chronicle of Higher Education, Philip Morris also contributes to such diverse groups as the Yale Divinity School and the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund. The big money went to the arts: American Ballet Theater, Brooklyn Museum, Joffrey Ballet, and Lincoln Center. In 1991, Philip Morris gave the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater Foundation $200,920; the year before, Alvin Ailey representatives testified in support of the tobacco industry in Congress. The other major Philip Morris recipients have been minority groups, including $86,108 for the Black Caucus, $111,500 for the NAACP, $301,450 for the National Urban League, and $175,000 for the National Council of La Raza. Not all the groups cited above returned calls from this reporter. Those that did emphasized the money was needed to help them serve their constituents and that it came with out strings attached. One might expect, says Cliff Douglas of the Advocacy Institute, that “groups representing those communities would be speaking out in opposition to aggressive marketing of the tobacco industry ….But what you see are groups like National Urban League and NAACP, who need the money and take the money from RJR and Philip Morris, saying not word one about this problem that afflicts their community. Groups in the gay community are by and large silent on this same concern. You could infer that tobacco company contributions, while helpful on the one hand, are buying silence on the other.” The politics of the tobacco tax now enters the highly acrimonious and subjective arena of the House of Represen tatives, where any new tax must originate. The tobacco-state delegations, numbering some 30-odd members, already have told the Clintons they smell a double cross. In a furious July 19 letter to Hillary Clinton, Representative H. Martin Lancaster of North Carolina, a point man for the industry on the Hill, wrote, “Please let me make it clear at the very outset that I will not vote for a health care program that singles out one commodity as the only source of revenue.” He went on, “The North Carolina Democratic delegation voted unanimously for the President’s budget and for reconciliation on the promise of the White House that tobacco would not be unfairly singled out to pay the cost of health care reform. If Dr. Magaziner continues to insist on tobacco as the only source of revenue, the White House should not expect to ever again get that kind of support from our delegation.” Lancaster and his colleagues want to spread the tax, applying it to alcohol. The President has recently agreed to ,remove indexing, which would make the tax go up or down every year depending on inflation. By so doing, the tax loses whatever modest revenue potential it ever had, and health advocates say it becomes next to meaningless as a lever against smoking. With the President apparently having made a deal to get tobacco votes on the budget and now watering down his own proposals before debate actually has begun, the attention now moves to Rangel’ s subcommittee, where the New York congressman will soon hold hearings on the impact of the cigarette tax. He’s generally been opposed to raising the tax, citing the impact on minorities. Another key player and valued member of the Democratic leadership is Detroit’s John Dingell, who has had an alliance with Virginia Republican Thomas Bliley to go easy on tobacco companies in exchange for support on his own projects. Which means that, in the end, thanks to Harlem and Detroit, the tobacco industry can breathe easy. THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11